The film explores the nature of evil through the relationship between two very troubled men. Todd Bowden would seem to be an average high schooler: he's got a loving family, a girlfriend, been doing OK in school. That is if you look past his unhealthy obsession with Nazism and the Holocaust. Coincidentally, his next door neighbor, old Mr. Denker, is more than meets the eye as well. When Todd finds pictures of Denker in old World War II files, we learn that he is actually a former high ranking Nazi wanted for war crimes, Kurt Dussander.
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Todd is eager to hear Denker recalling his previous activities, and forces him to do so by threatening to expose his true identity. As the two spend more and more time together, they become fascinated with each other. While telling his stories to the captivated Todd, Denker becomes more and more open and his suppressed personality is seen. When Todd's close ones and a nosy school counselor begin worrying about his and the old neighbor's relationship, Denker intervenes to calm their suspicions.
The dangerous connection between the two culminates when they kill a man in cold blood. Denker has a heart attack and is taken to the hospital. Through a twist of fate, a hospital resident recognizes him from the war. To avoid capture, Denker commits suicide. Todd meanwhile denies any knowledge of his neighbor's past and seems resolved to maintain his innocent facade, while we know what lurks behind.
Best part of story, including ending:
There were some "shock" scenes meant to be scary that felt out of place in this otherwise talky thriller. The way that Todd and Denker are at the same time intrigued and wary of each other is well presented.
Best scene in story:
When Todd makes Denker wear a Nazi uniform and execute a march, Denker becomes so absorbed that he doesn't stop despite Todd's pleas. Todd is intimidated by the power of fanaticism, but instead of being deterred, he gives in to his fascination.
Opinion about the main character:
Todd and Denker are essentially the same personality in different stages. They are manipulative, ruthless and intensely arrogant. This is emphasized by the scene of Todd's graduation speech.